Best MTB upgrades

May I ask about the general consensus about MTB upgrades with the best performance-to-cost ratio? I’ve been hearing handlebars are one example, but I struggle to see how that beats new rims/wheels. If new rims/wheels is indeed the winner, and assuming 1) you’re not a weight weenie and 2) aluminum products only, what do you look for in a new set of rims/wheels?

Thanks in advance for responses.


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Depends on what you’re looking for I think. Are you an XC racer, enduro racer, just riding trails?
I think overall any upgrades should be made with fit/comfort after a bike fit if you haven’t had one.
xc people are def looking to upgrade wheels. I’m a big fan of Industry Nine utralites. These are aluminum, spin great, and are light. Dropper post is up there too. You’ll see a lot of xc folks with them these days.
Overall: wheels and a dropper for sure. Maybe a revamped cockpit that is more comfortable and gives you confidence and fits well.


Agree with @DMC, without knowledge of your goals, riding type/terrain and your current bike and components we’re really just guessing.

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Yes, if xc racing is your game wheels may be the best cost:benefit upgrade. I have as set of Raceface Al rims with DT hubs that are very light and spin up well, but my Nox carbon hoops with the same hubs feel better. With the increase in stiffness the bike handles differently and steers better.
I didn’t think bars were a big deal. I’d been on carbon bars for a few years. When I picked up a new bike last year it came with al bars. Holy smokes! After one ride I called the shop and had them order me another set of identical carbon bars. The vibration and chatter in the bars was noticably greater.
So, bang for the buck may need to be weighed against more than just speed. There may be a case where comfort or fatigue remediation may be more beneficial.

:point_up::point_up::point_up::point_up::point_up:What he said


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As always in life, it depends. What components do you have now? Do you want more comfort? Less weight? Less weight for a good price?

E. g. saddles with carbon rails or carbon handle bars are in my experience more beneficial when it comes to comfort, whereas carbon wheels often ride less comfortably than their aluminum counterparts, because they are usually markedly stiffer. Also, there are things that have a better price-to-weight ratio than others. That’s usually things like tires.

No question the single biggest upgrade I personally have ever made is wheels and tires. Going to lighter wheels with a good set up tubeless tires can make a huge difference, especially if you long rides with a lot of climbs.

However there are lots of other factors to consider, especially in regards to what you are starting with.

While aluminum is a lot cheaper, there have been some great deals on carbon wheelsets. Some sites were clearing out older models of ENVE wheels for less than half price. The older models are still really good and carry a full warranty if bought new. I’ve also seen some really good prices on new Ebay and Amazon on DTSwiss XMC 1200 wheels

Buying a used set of wheels is another way to score a good deal, but you must ensure they are in good working order.

The single biggest thing that will change what and how you can ride is a dropper post.

Wheels and tires if you want to improve handling and acceleration. Although might need to go carbon to get the full benefit of lower rotating mass.


Personally, I think that the tires should be the first thing you upgrade on your bike. Often times bikes come with OEM versions of the tires, which look the same as the aftermarket verisons, however, they have a harder tire compound, possibly a wire bead, a different TPI casing etc. Depending on the tires you have, it could be ossible to save as much as a pound of rotating weight off of your tires by switching to a higher end verison of the same type of tire.

Certainly worth looking into since it could mean both better grip and lower rotational weight.


Agreed on the dropper, I scoffed at them at first but love mine. On a hardtail btw.


Good insights, gentlemen! Thank you.

  1. Go tubeless - IMHO best relatively cheap upgrade, you’ll be able to ride with lower pressure, have more grip, will prevent snake-bites and small holes and potentialy reduce weight
  2. Better tyres - even with the same tyre model you can upgrade ti higher spec, i.e. I’ve upgrader stock Maxxis Icon 60 TPI to Maxxis Icon 3C EXO 120 TPI
  3. ESI Grips (or simmilar) - also cheap upgrade but improves handling
  4. Dropper post
  5. Wheels

I’m surprised no one has mentioned suspension. So often I jump on a buddy’s bike and the setup is horrible. Too many/few tokens, wrong pressure, rebound all wrong, etc. Such a basic thing but servicing your suspension and dialing it to your riding style could easily be one of the biggest upgrades you can make. Costs almost nothing which is a perk.


Again, depends on what kind of riding you do and what you have now.

I always start with tires, then get some miles in, then take the bike to have the suspension dialed by someone like Diez Suspension Design.

I like big hard fast, so fork and 4 pot brakes. Weight…meh

:+1:t3: On the ESI grips!

@skaburski nailed it. Exactly what I was going to say. The only other add would be pedals especially if riding flats.

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@basshunter sure, pedals were so obvious that I didn’t event think of them. I would add pedals and good shoes. This year I’ve replace my 10 year old spd shoes, I would say tourist shoes that I could even walk in to XC9. Eventhough the old ones I liked a lot and still use them if I have to walk, but XC9 are way better, much lighter, stiffer and power transfer to pedals is superb.

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Sounds like I am good then. I’ve gone tubeles, installed Maxxis Minion DHF in the front and Minion DHR II in the back, I have ESI grips, and I have a dropper post. I am only wondering about the stock standard rims…I seem to need to true my wheels too often. I don’t ride XC as much as trails but the 22mm inner rim width is probably not giving me the grip I can have with slightly wider rims.

Look into Spank wheelsets. They are pretty dang bombproof. Not the lightest aluminum wheels but they stay true.

If you are planning on upgrading wheels take a good look a I9’s (Industry Nine) wheelsets, super solid…

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